The United States now believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against rebel forces, corroborating with an earlier Israeli intelligence assessment.
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” White House aide Miguel Rodriguez wrote in letters to Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Wall Street Journal reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel also confirmed this shift while touring the Middle East.
“The intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue,” Hagel said, USA Today reported. “The decision to make this conclusion was reached in the last 24 hours.”
Earlier this week, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. Itay Baron, said that the Syrian government used lethal chemical weapons, mainly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times in the past few weeks, and is continuing to do so.
Additional American allies, namely Great Britain and France, also believe Assad’s regime used chemical weapons.
President Barack Obama has previously said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for his administration, possibly triggering U.S. military action.